To the true artist, all things are possessed by the simple glory and beauty of creation. Michael Nylund considered himself an artist of the highest caliber.
In hockey, stickhandling is everything. The ability to take control of the puck and, beyond that, the situation and the game as a whole, is absolutely crucial for all players. To this end, Michael spent untold hours of his adolescence practicing. He had not been a natural at such coordinated and fine movements, his bodily proportions making him unwieldy from a young age, but as is often said, hard work trumps talent when talent refuses to work hard. Back home in Michigan he was a very desirable and scouted player, and had he not been forced to travel abroad he no doubt would have been picked up by a d1 school.
Here though, Michael was once again a no one. Store owners didn’t greet him by name, and his steps elicited no diffident nods. He was assumed by most to be a tourist, and as far as he was concerned he might as well be. He had no intentions to stay here much longer than he had to.
Already this impromptu vacation was off to a lackluster start. Unused to the presence of their offspring, the elder Nylunds continued on living the sorts of trivial lives expatriates are drawn to, with Michael left alone to entertain himself. To many, this would be no problem, as being unsupervised in a new place can be full of adventure, but for a youth used to regiment and schedule, this was near fatal. After a bit of purposeless wandering proved, as expected, unsatisfying, Michael decided that his only recourse was to start Summer training on his own.
Devoid of team or coach, Michael found this practice to more than make up for in tranquility what it lacked in potency.
No man is an island however, or even a peninsula really, and as days dragged into weeks, boredom’s malicious gaze peeked out from every nook. On one Thursday, Michael found the monotony of drilling particularly mind-numbing, and allowed his mind to be distracted with bouncing the puck. Blinking his eyes lazily, he felt his heart slow to match the steady movement of his arm and his brain begin to lose count, fog blurring and contorting the numbers. Michael snapped awake, shocked at how quickly he could succumb to mental exhaustion. Wrinkling his forehead and stopping his arm, he stifled a yawn as he watched the puck fall, moving past the end of the stick and slapping the ice.
As soon as the puck touched the ice, a shockwave seemed to spread through the pond’s frozen surface. The horrific cracking intensified and Michael watched in dull bemusement as the ice a few feet in front of him split wide and bony hands pulled skeletal bodies out of the frigid water. The first body rolled its neck experimentally and then helped pull two of its compatriots through the hole. Turning now to face him, Michael found himself stricken with the sheer level of malice that emanated from the skeleton’s dark eye holes.
Though confused and not a little surprised, Michael was not afraid. He cracked his knuckles and turned his hands back and forth before planting his stick on the ground and looking towards the monsters.
"Let’s do it then."